Baker Touts Construction Boom, Names Haverhill ‘Housing Choice’ City During Thursday Visit

Mayor James J. Fiorentini greeted Gov. Charlie Baker Thursday in downtown Haverhill. (WHAV News photograph)

Gov. Charlie Baker is ready to address the state’s housing crisis, and visited Haverhill Thursday to praise city leaders and Beacon Hill decision makers for their commitment to boost housing production as part of a new Housing Choice Community designation.

During a ceremony at downtown’s newly renovated Ellis Factory apartments, Baker lauded Mayor James J. Fiorentini and Haverhill’s legislative delegation for backing his call for targeted zoning reform in an effort to produce 135,000 new housing units by 2025. At Thursday’s event, Baker designated Haverhill and nine other cities “Housing Choice Communities” for paving the way for growth and development in a time of housing crisis.

“The goal here is to move in a direction,” Baker said. “In housing, literally for decades, we’ve been moving in the wrong direction. Doing nothing virtually guarantees that we continue to move in the wrong direction.”

According to Acting Undersecretary of Housing and Community Development Jennifer Maddox, Haverhill was the first city to adopt the 40R zoning designation in 2007.

As WHAV previously reported, Haverhill has several new housing projects underway. The former Gerson furniture building on Washington Street is being turned into 54 units of veteran housing in March 2020, with other plans to overhaul the former Haverhill Music Centre and Trattoria Al Forno restaurant into properties.

Downtown’s Ellis Factory is at capacity, owners said, with the nearby 98 Essex St. properties holding an apartment lottery next week.

Baker said Haverhill exemplifies what his new legislation is after, pointing to the likes of state Reps. Andy Vargas, Linda Dean Campbell, Lenny Mirra, Christina Minicucci and others who collaborated with City Hall officials to secure the community choice designation.

“It’s important to deal with the fact that we want to be a growing, vibrant Commonwealth with growing, vibrant downtowns in all of our cites and our communities,” Baker said. “This makes it possible for locals to do the planning with state support and execute on the planning.”

Vargas, who told the crowd the story of how his parents relocated him and his siblings from Cambridge to Haverhill in an effort to raise their family in a more economical environment, echoed Baker’s sentiments. “This is a necessary step in the right direction to ensure that we build more affordable housing and transit-oriented development, which I’m a big fan of.”

Baker’s legislation goes before the Joint Committee on Housing on May 14.

Comments are closed.